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Warhammer Quest: Cursed City Review - DOA
I've been taking my time painting up the objective markers and recently finished the corpse rats. The level of detail in these seemingly extraneous pieces are insane, but like you said also incredibly brittle. I broke off at least two rat tails just trying to jam the damn things in the base.
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I love that it has just plain old bats and rats and skeletons and not Sanguinus Skitterrippers or Vertiginous Flederfangs or junk like that. But man, those boss models are trash. They just look stupid. A couple of the heroes too I’m just like wow, boring. After the awesome models in Black Fortress it’s pretty surprising.
I wonder if there is some kind of behind the scenes drama or angst over the development, production and distribution of it...and I am pretty surprised that more people aren’t vocal about the fact that it’s not good like myself and Joel Eddy have been. Rob Oren took it to task on availability but that’s it.
I was also weirdly unmotivated when it showed up...after putting some of the models together and feeling like something was off, I had to forge myself to build the rest and punch it all.
The rules should have been easier to pick up, especially since I have played through both the Silver Tower and base set Blackstone Fortress campaigns in the last year. The Silver Tower rules were easy, and easy to learn due to the user-friendly rulebook. Blackstone Fortress was a bit less friendly in layout, and now Cursed City is a bit difficult to parse. It starts with five tutorials, but they only cover the basics and then the reader is left searching elsewhere for specific rules without an index or table of contents. Fortunately, the rules are then laid out according to turn order, so it's still possible to struggle through a first adventure without completely reading the rules in advance.
I randomly took the ogor, the aelf, the exiled noble, and the dwarf (aka "steampunk fire hydrant"), with the dwarf as leader. The hunt was super-easy at first, until a bad stretch of dice-rolling that left both the dwarf and ogor with a disease token each. Then the ogor got mauled by the Gravekeeper and then buried alive on the next turn. Buried alive is very bad news in this game. Either the character or someone adjacent to him must spend two activation dice showing 6s, or else the buried character takes 2 wounds that round. I just barely managed to rescue the ogor on the turn that he would have died. At other points in time, both the noble and the dwarf were roughed up pretty badly, down to just one or two activation dice for a while.
Combat wasn't as lopsided as I expected. It's true that three of my heroes had ranged attacks while none of the many monsters in this hunt had any ranged ability. But the map layout tended to keep the sightlines short, and the monsters often got extra moves, so most of the fighting was in melee. Some of the monsters were a challenge to put down because they had a chance of reducing each hit by 2 wounds.
The hunt was successful, though we ended up running through most of the encounter deck in just that hunt. A couple of the big five threats even showed up, though apparently there aren't encounter cards for all five, or at least not for zero level encounters. We didn't get a single crisis during this hunt, so I don't have an opinion about that aspect yet.
I like the way this hunt mission had a lasting impact, adjusting citywide influence and fear. The map tiles looked amazing, as it dawned on me that the peculiar silverly blue of most of the tiles was there to convey that we were fighting in streets and alleys under a full moon.
If I understand the leveling rules correctly, it appears that this campaign will take at least 18 missions to complete. The limited variety of monsters will probably wear out their welcome before the end of the campaign, but so far, I am enjoying it.
There is a lot of content in this game, more than either Silver Tower or Blackstone Fortress had in their base sets. That plus the miniatures should have been enough to justify the high price of Cursed City. But a full 1/3 of the minis are the skeletons and zombies, and they are the least interesting opponents in the game. A couple of the named bad guys can enhance them, but there's a good chance that these leaders and their favorite minions won't be on the table at the same time. I'm sure that the intention was to deliver that zombie horde experience, but unless a game is primarily about zombie hordes, it's probably better to go with more variety. Also, it's a shame that another 1/6 of the minis represent inanimate objects. They should have made those into tokens and then put 10 more hostiles in the mix. Both Silver Tower and Blackstone Fortress offered a good mix of opponents, encouraging players to adjust their tactics depending on the enemies on the table. It's too bad that the expansions have all been canceled, because Cursed City could really benefit from an adversary card expansion.
The brutal part of a deliverance mission is that the heroes must constantly move to stay ahead of the death spell, so even a single wound becomes a real drag, and also reduces the chances of getting a 4+ activation die to open a closed gate, or a 6+ activation die to warn the citizens. The next random event deprived us of the destiny dice, so the dwarf fell behind and was lost. A few turns later, he was brought back by a lucky event roll, but a bad destiny roll left him heartbroken and again lost to the death spell.
We soon got one of the nightguards, and he did some real damage to the aelf and the ogor. They both had healing potions and managed to recover and put him down. When I took a break for the night, the three remaining heroes still need to warn 4 more groups of citizens. Nightfall will happen next turn. The death spell is just one room behind us. Both the aelf and ogor are injured again. The dice seem cursed. It seems possible that it will all come down to my duellist noble making a desperate solo dash as the aelf and ogor fall behind.
The dice were very swingy. Many of my attack rolls were either a pair of blanks or a pair of hits. A pair of hits is unnecessary since you only use the outcome of the best die. I often rolled badly with the destiny dice and only had one to work with that turn. A couple of crises popped up, but both times allowed an option for me to ignore them with tolerable consequences.
Maybe I had unusually bad luck this time around, but this deliverance mission has been very tense and challenging so far. Maybe it was just because of that early bottleneck with two tough opponents, with cascading consequences since then. But it almost feels like this is the specific mode that Cursed City was built around, with extra design effort to make sure that it works properly.
During decapitation missions, you do a deliverance but instead of warning citizens, you just play through 10 cards. Seems like a much more manageable way to do it.
EDIT: The dwarf and the ogor got eliminated during this scenario due to wounds, but that doesn't automatically mean that they died. It just means that they get taken out of that session. Then there is a vitality roll or something like that for each character to see if they really died or not. Both the dwarf and the ogor are pretty tough, so I rolled okay and they both survived.
Shellhead wrote: Maybe Cursed City is just too expensive to meet reasonable expectations. I have never paid $190 for a boardgame, but if I ever did, I would be expecting either a near-perfect game or else a unique experience that can't be found in games within a more normal price range. Since I only paid $70 for my stripped copy, plus a few more bucks to create my own tokens, I am satisfied that I got my money's worth from Cursed City. There have been games that I ended up spending well north of $100 on due to expansions, like Arkham Horror 2nd or Marvel Champions, but I already knew from playing the base set that I would likely enjoy the expansions. I think the most expensive standalone game that I ever got was maybe The Gothic Game for $110 plus shipping, but fortunately I had played it before and knew exactly what I was getting. Also, I knew in advance that it was a game that I could easily get on the table with a variety of friends, even some friends who don't often play board games.
I'm with you on so many of these points. I was lucky enough to get this discounted down to ~$158 from a local store, but even that was steep and the way I ationalize this purchase is that I think of half my money went toward a game and the other half was for miniatures. Specifically, these are miniatures that would work in other miniature games my friends and I like to play. Frostgrave 2e has been staring me down through most of the pandemic and I can't wait to use most, if not all, of the Cursed City miniatures in that system.
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